Real Good Moments in Journalism

C’mon Niall Ferguson. Mr. Harvard. Mr. economics outsider. You thought writing President Obama’s presidency can be summed up as black and lucky was OK? This guy’s smart enough to know that would get him a lot of attention. It’s the editors who let it slide who made the mistake of not making him rephrase it. And the funny thing is, he’s not really bashing Obama that much. Absent that stupid phrase it’s a benign commentary.

The column lede:

President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky. And that pretty much sums up the 44th president of the US as he takes a well-earned summer break after just over six months in the world’s biggest and toughest job.

But then, perhaps the funniest part is Ferguson’s journalism mess-up number two, defending himself against critics (see my recent Real Good Moment in Journalism about Dennis Kneale). All dude had to say was, “Sorry, wrong choice of words, but you can easily see what I meant… ” and he would have gotten some attention and everyone would have forgotten about it tomorrow. But, noooo. And now an entire population who had never heard of Niall Ferguson now just thinks of him as the dude who stumbles around saying things like Obama’s like a black cat, but not because it’s black, just because it’s lucky and more lucky because it’s black. But not an African American cat. 



Consequently, I have a black cat. And she’s outraged.

He told the Huffington Post:

So it’s racist to compare President Obama with Felix the Cat? Oh dear, the seemingly dead body of political correctness just twitched. Let’s try logic, shall we?

1. Black cats are proverbially lucky.

2. Felix the cartoon character was a black cat, not an African-American cat – in other words, he was not one of the (quite numerous) 1920s figures in popular entertainment that mocked the mannerisms of the descendants of slaves.

3. Obama is a lucky president — so far. Compare his first six months with Carter’s and Clinton’s if you don’t get that bit.

4. As for the word “black”, it’s the same one used by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Harvard Black Alumni Society, among others.

The piece made an important point about the biggest threat to Obama’s presidency: the seemingly uncontrollable deficit. That’s the issue the Huffington Post should be focusing on, not politically correct claptrap.

Update: AAAAND, he later went to Paul Krugman with more griping. A scholarly/journalistic excellence hat-trick!

Consequently, I have a black cat. And she is outraged.


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